FILM REVIEW: A Dream of Spring 春之夢2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Zhao and Feng used to be roommates living in a tiny military veteran dorm. After Feng passes away, his ashes are contained in a small urn. As Zhao toasts to Feng’s ashes and reminisces of their past romance with Ah-Feng, the prostitute, he comes to a decision to take Feng’s ashes to see Ah-Feng for a formal farewell, and thus begins a journey in search of the warmth of life.
Director: Tsao Shin-Han 曹仕翰
Cast: Ting Chiang, Vera Chan, An-Shun Yu
Language: Mandarin Chinese
Review by Jean Wong
A bittersweet tale that goes beyond the theme of friendship, A Dream of Spring (2017) is a 高雄拍 (Kaohsiung Shoots) endeavour. It tenderly laces political issues with the universal desire for human connection. The film attempts and succeeds in depicting its leads as three-dimensional yet relatable everyday characters.
It deviates from the typical narrative of the elderly by touching on their contributions rather than the clichés of elderly neglect or dementia. Instead, it puts a different spin on them by showcasing another aspect of their lives that most do not think about. The focus on military veterans’ private lives is a rarely explored one, and gives viewers a fresh perspective of the elderly.
Zhao and Feng, who worked in the military in the 1940s, were under a marriage ban set by the government for soldiers when political tensions between Taiwan and China were high. Both men thus could only turn to prostitutes to satisfy their needs. Yet, the government then implemented a prostitution ban, disrupting their lives once again.
Most of us do not think about the stories behind people working in such discreet industries — both the defense and the sex industry. A Dream of Spring thus builds on this gap to portray the normal, humane aspect of these workers.
The quietness in most scenes also emulates the mundaneness of everyday life. Having the film shot without much background music creates a very slice-of-life atmosphere and adds on to the portrayal of Zhao and Ah-Feng as relatable. Such factors come together to bring out the warmth of life that the film so wishes to capture.
The politics between Taiwan and China is by no means unknown to us. However, not many may be aware of the marriage and prostitution ban implemented in Taiwan one after another. By angling it as a slice-of-life short film, the political commentary in the film is subtle but impactful.
Ah-Feng accedes to Zhao’s strange requests as she is aware that the military veterans sacrificed a lot to defend Taiwan during such a politically violent time. Seeing the sentiments displayed by Ah-Feng towards Zhao and Feng, the short film succeeds in reaching out and moving the audience’s hearts.
In fact, A Dream of Spring is amongst one of the films selected for the 41st Clermont-Ferrand International Film Festival along with local short film, CA$H (2018). It is definitely a recommended watch for anyone who appreciates emotional depth amongst subtle political undertones.